Lyman Cornelius Smith
L. C. Smith (1850-1910) was a go-getter in the classic American sense. There were no schools to train this generation of inventors and tycoons who set out to do what never had been done before. Following their gut instincts, they were the first to spot opportunity in the emerging continental economy. There were no disciplinary boundaries in those days, and they could slide with ease between finance and industry, electricity and photography, the telegraph and the hearing aid. L.C. Smith, born in Torrington, Connecticut, was cast in this mold.
With the coming of the railroads, Smith recognized the challenge and potential reward of getting Western meat to the Eastern market, where its value increased a thousand-fold. The middleman was as essential to creating a continental economy as the railroad builder, and Smith made his first fortune in the livestock commission business in the mid-1870s. In 1887 he took up the manufacture of breech-loading firearms, an industry that was undergoing rapid innovation and growth.
Three years later another keen hunch led Smith to move from the manufacture of firearms into a leading-edge technology that would transform commerce. He formed the Smith Premier Typewriter Company in 1890, and, three years later, the L.C. Smith & Brothers Typewriter Company. True, L.C. Smith did not invent the typewriter, but his dissatisfaction with the turn-of-the-century typewriter’s “blind-strike technology” led to the first machine on which typists could see what they were typing. The typewriter would become not only a source of greater productivity and efficiency, but another bond in the continental and global economies.
In an age of heroic achievement, Smith contributed to the expansion and vibrancy of American industry and commerce. He was recognized worldwide, and awarded the French Legion d’Honneur, among many other honors. Most important, he had a sense of the future in his bones, realizing the vital need of education in empowering others to follow his lead. In 1901 he established the Lyman Cornelius Smith College of Applied Science. Four years later, he made another generous gift to erect a second building. He was appointed trustee in 1896 and elected Vice President of the Board of Trustees in 1899, remaining in that office until his death in 1910.
His imagination, confidence, and daring will inspire us always.
- Tom Raynor